Smash Conference United: Not esports now
UPDATE: The player involved, M2K, posted the following on Twitter in response to the abuse he suffered. Smash Conference did not respond to our request for comment, and have not addressed the issue in public.
"We esports now" is a common meme in the Smash Bros community and, over the past few years, that has become far more true, as big teams such as Liquid, Cloud 9 and TSM jump in and pick up top players, while events increasingly bring in A-list sponsors.
However, there are still sections of the community holding back not just themselves, but the entire competitive scene, as another embarrassing incident, this time at Smash Conference United from the weekend just passed, sadly shows.
The tournament was one of the first to feature the new game in the series, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and had many of the top players in attendance, including MK Leo, Tempo Storm’s ZeRo and Team Liquid’s Salem. This made it an incredibly hyped event and an opportunity to showcase everything great about Smash to a new audience. Instead, things were their normal level of "esports" when it comes to Smash gaming.
A constant problem at events in recent years, especially in Smash 4/Ultimate, is the egregious abuse players get from the crowd. Even the greatest player in the history of that game, ZeRo, made numerous requests for fans of other players to cut back on the aggressive, needless abuse designed to damage his play and, therefore, the experience of the crowd but, sadly, it was to no avail.
Not only do TOs still allow that level of bile to wash across the bows of their star attractions, but they make no attempt to prevent future instances. A well-known abuser was once again in attendance at Smash Conference, with his gaggle of gutless gimps and, this time, it was M2K who suffered, with the TOs failing to step in and take any action as one of their biggest draws had his day ruined by screeching idiots. We reached out to Smash Conference on social media for comment, where they have so far been silent on the issue, but received no reply to our request.
Underdog boost fiasco
As if that were not "enough" embarrassment for the event and scene, it also transpires that Smash Conference were using the wrong settings during competitive play, despite being made aware of the issue. Underdog boost is a mechanic designed to close the gap in casual play and help the worse player "catch up", so, as you can, imagine it is pure poison to the competitive scene, where every kill has to be earned with skill and not charity.
As it turned out, that mechanic was active for large parts of the event, leading to moves killing earlier, doing more damage, and results therefore being affected. In the clip you can see the error being addressed once, but it turns out there were numerous other examples at the event that show this was not in fact the case, and the catch-up mechanic was still muddying the waters of fair competition.
The first look the world got at competitive Ultimate on this level make the scene seem amateurish, if not downright incompetent
Both of these issues have to be addressed from two points of view, with the first being the pure competitive standard a scene has to set to be taken seriously. The bare minimum for any competition to be considered a sport or esport is fair conditions for all competitors, and Smash Conference didn’t succeed in providing that, meaning one of the first looks the world got at competitive Ultimate on this level make the scene seem amateurish, if not downright incompetent.
The second point is about the expansion of the game, and how that is being negatively affected by the presence of people who claim to be "fans" but are, in fact, toxic wastes of space.
Events like Heir have shown what good support and crowd interaction means, and the folk who spent time spoiling M2K’s day are not going to be missed if a TO does ban them, which begs the question: Why are they still allowed in?. It’s not just M2K who is hurt, but the viewer who doesn’t get to see the best level of play, and the scene too.
If you want esports to be taken seriously, you have to provide a safe environment and fair competition - it’s that simple. Crowds will always boo and heckle but players must be able to get a small amount of space to perform, and any event that doesn’t provide it is failing in modern esports terms. The game itself looked great at Smash Conference, dodgy kill percentages aside but, once again, Smash looked poor due to a lack of due diligence from the event organisers, and that needs to change.